Hy-Vee has banned customers from bringing reusable bags to the store in part because of requests from customers worried the bags could spread the coronavirus, Hy-Vee spokeswoman Christina Gayman told Grocery Dive. The company has been taking steps to help keep employees and shoppers safe and took the feedback from its customers into account in deciding to disallow use of the bags, she said in an interview. “Many customers have requested us not to allow them at this time,” Gayman said. “We’re doing our very best to protect all of our customers and employees, [so] this is the direction we decided to go in.”
New Hampshire’s governor on Saturday issued an emergency order that directs retailers to use single-use plastic or paper bags until the outbreak ends. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Food Administration has asked the state to suspend local ordinances prohibiting plastic bag use.
- The Food Industry Association (FMI) says that while it is unclear if reusable bags can transmit the coronavirus, “reusable bags and totes can become unsanitary and a vehicle for cross-contamination if not properly cared for. Many of these bags are not designed with food safety in mind and can be a challenge to clean appropriately.”
Hy-Vee’s decision to temporarily ban shoppers from bringing reusable bags into its stores comes as grocers are taking steps to demonstrate their commitment to keeping their customers and employees safe during the coronavirus outbreak. Grocery stores have remained open even as most other businesses have shuttered, and as the outbreak worsens chains will face increasing pressure to prevent the virus's spread while also making sure consumers get essential goods.
Gayman said that Hy-Vee banned reusable bags to ensure that its bagging areas are not contaminated by the virus. While some shoppers wash their bags, “we can’t guarantee this across the board,” she told Grocery Dive.
Hy-Vee’s decision to ban the reusable bags comes as several states that have banned plastic bags have delayed their enforcement. Eight states have enacted laws that prohibit stores from using disposable plastics bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
New York state has delayed enforcement of its plastic bag measure until May 15 due to the outbreak, the New York Daily News reported. Meanwhile, Maine has delayed enforcement of its plastic bag ban until Jan. 15, 2021, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Maryland legislators are considering a measure to block the use of plastic bags, with the House of Delegates approving it earlier this month, according to the Washington Post.
Like a growing number of supermarkets, Hy-Vee has been implementing a number of other measures to protect shoppers and workers from the virus. The company is adding plexiglass barriers at checkout counters to separate customers and cashiers, and announced last week that it would no longer accept returns of non-perishable products because it cannot track them after they leave the store.